Description Parallel Stream Session C.3

Description Parallel Stream Session C.3

Parallel Stream Sessions C (14:30-15:45)
Stream C.3 Local social policy and representative justice.

Menno Fenger (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Babs Broekema (Erasmus University Rotterdam).

In the last decade, the institutional and administrative organization of European welfare states have changed considerably. These changes have been driven by economic, ideological, and administrative trends. Economically, the 2008-2014 financial and economic crisis has put strains on the budgets of all European countries. This has led to a new wave of austerity measures in European welfare states. Ideologically, self-reliance instead of government-dependency has become a new standard in welfare and health policies (Morgen, 2001; Nalbandian, 2005). Administratively, the neo-liberal, New Public Management agenda is replaced by the New Public Governance agenda. This focuses on increasing the quality of service delivery through client-centered integration, and coproduction between users, volunteers and paid employees (Dunleavy et al, 2006; Osborne, 2006; Koppenjan, 2012).

These developments together imply a shift from centralized, curative policies based on government support towards local policies and programs, that are demand-driven, oriented at prevention and based on self-reliance and community initiatives (see OECD, 2015; Andreotti et al., 2012). This panel focuses on the reality of the representative governance, politics and implementation of integrated welfare and health services on the local or regional level. For this panel, we invite papers that analyze the current decentralized welfare state in the Netherlands or other European countries.

Specifically, we are interested in papers that deal with:

  • A street-level perspective on social and health services: Since the 1980s, the assessment of the needs of individuals, which is conditional to most welfare-, (health) care and labour-market services, has become increasingly strict. With the emergence of local welfare systems, a restoration of professionalism appears to take place. Social and health care workers are expected to assess clients’ needs and capacities from an integrated perspective: health, housing, work, financial situation, social relations and overall wellbeing. They should develop tailor-made solutions, tuned at the unique constellation of clients’ characteristics. This requires the use of professional values and judgments, but still in the context of resources that are increasingly limited (Jansen et al., 2010; see also Oldenhof, 2015).
  • A governance perspective on local welfare systems: The transformation of the welfare state not only involves both the external management and the internal management. A new role for professionals also requires a new role for organizational leaders. Literature on organizational change in the public sector learns that success of large-scale reforms – such as the introduction of new public governance systems – is certainly not guaranteed (Fernandez & Rainey, 2006). Papers may focus on the following issues: What strategies do these leaders develop to overcome challenges and dilemmas in crafting effective, efficient networks that are responsive to the needs of service users? How is leadership behaviour of political and administrative leaders related to the performance of the local welfare system?
  • A political perspective on local welfare systems: Local governance arrangements embody a tension between two principles: effective democratic guidance and control to assure the public interest is served, and effective program delivery to increase community welfare. There are at least two potential democratic deficits in local welfare systems. The first occurs because in local welfare systems local, regional, and national actors collaborate. In these multi-level arrangements, democratic participation and accountability tend to be weak (see for instance Bekkers et al., 2007; Skelcher, 2005). The second potential democratic deficit occurs in partnerships between public, private and non-profit organizations, where political participation and accountability are often indirect (Sørensen, 2005). Simultaneously, local welfare systems are usually very recognizable, close to citizens, more open and transparent than large, national bureaucracies that implement social services. Therefore, local welfare systems may also give rise to new or improved forms of political participation and accountability.